Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #99 by Drew Barth
DC is one of comics’ oldest publishers, but much of its history is overlooked. DC’s focus occasionally shifts to its Golden and Silver ages, or into periods of the 1980s. Created by John Ridley, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Andrea Cucchui, José Villarrubia, and Steve Wands, The Other History of the DC Universe addresses this gap.
The first book of The Other History of the DC Universe centers on the life of Jefferson Pierce, better known as Black Lightning. This is a snippet of his life story—from his father’s murder, to his gold medal-winning performance at the Olympics in Munich, to the slow bubbling rage that gave him powers, and to his life slowly dissolving as a result. This is the story of a man who happens to be a superhero and every triumph and failure that entails. Ridley’s script gives us almost straight prose and spells out every struggle Pierce lives through—it is equal measure tragic and illuminating as at no point in the past have we ever been given such an insight to this character in so few pages.
This is the most important comic DC has put out this century. Ridley, Camuncoli, Cucchi, Villarrubia, and Wands completely re-contextualize the age of the superhero in the 70s and 80s. When Jefferson Pierce becomes Black Lightning in Suicide Slum, why is he called a vigilante when Batman is a hero? Why doesn’t Superman help out this part of Metropolis? How many black children have to die before the heroes do something? The story systematically tears down the idea of 70s and 80s comic heroism—even showcasing a “Let’s Make America Great Again” Reagan campaign button with the iconic splat of blood from Watchmen. More than anything, this series wants to show readers the reality they never knew was there.
The Other History of the DC Universe is the crowning achievement of DC’s Black Label imprint. This isn’t the gratuitous violence or sexual content that became a staple for the imprint—this is a comic that speaks truth to superpowers and doesn’t allow us to look away. It’s a comic I didn’t know I had been waiting for as it uses the uniqueness of superhero comics to tell a story that monthly comics don’t touch on enough: blackness in America, and what that entails.
Get excited. Get this issue.
Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.